Your Local Deck & Patio Builder in Daphne, Fairhope, and Mobile, AL

Top 10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Contractor

  1. Know What You Want

As the owner of the property, you drive the process and make the decisions. This does not mean you have all the answers on what materials to use or how to build the product. It means you should have a clear vision of what you want the finished product to look like and its purpose! Is it for entertaining, storage, or usable space? What amenities are important to you? Be sure to have clarity on your goals for the space before hiring a contractor to help with design.

2. Interview Several Contractors

Most recommend acquiring bids from at least 3 different contractors on your project. As you start to meet these contractors, ask plenty of questions to understand more about them. Not only will you get a good idea about them personally, but also about the caliber of your project and an idea on pricing.

3. Investigate Each Bid

With different contractors come different pricing on your project. However, they may not be comparing apple to apples. One contractor may be the lowest bidder but left out several important items such as insurance or permitting. A higher bidder could indicate a quality job with everything included. You get what you pay for in most cases. Consider each bid carefully.

4. Do Background Checks

Has the contractor worked for anyone you know? Do they have an online presence on Google or Facebook? Ask around or look up reviews to see if that contractor has a valuable reputation. It is also important to verify that the contractor is licensed and insured. Locally, an Alabama Home Builders License is a requirement for any project over $10,000. Adequate insurance coverage includes at least $1 million in liability.

5. Observe the Potential Contractors’ Habits

First and foremost, do they communicate well? This is the single most important factor, because when you need to get ahold of them, you need confidence in their ability to communicate effectively. This includes answering phone calls in a timely manner, replying to texts, and showing up to meetings on time. Are they organized? Do they show pride in their dress code and company vehicle? Lack of attention to these details could be reflected on your project.

6. Set and Manage Expectations

Bringing someone new around your home and family can be problematic if the proper expectations are not laid out. Establish ground rules on parking, bathroom use, foul language, trash, and working hours. Making sure both you and the contractor are on the same page with these rules will help prevent issues later.

7. Know What You’re Paying For

Free estimates sound great but often do not encompass the details needed on larger projects. Projects over a few thousand dollars should have a “scope of work” incorporated with the estimate that lays out the specifics on each part of the project. The scope of work will include things such as the amount of work or the specific product to be installed, inclusions and exclusions pertaining to the project. It is so important to understand what is in the scope of work and to agree with the wording.

8. Know When to Pay for It

Ask the contractor how they handle payment. Do they want all money up front? Half now, half later? It’s common to pay a down payment on a project before starting work or even to help with preconstruction design, but NEVER pay the full cost up front. Red Branch Construction believes in keeping payment terms flexible for their customers. To begin the permit process and scheduling, a small down payment of 5-10% is collected at the time of agreement. Then, during construction, progress payments will be made in relation to the size of the project. Finally, once the project and punch list are complete, the final payment is made. Many different methods can be used, just be sure your contractor has a procedure.

9. Review the Agreement

A contractor without an agreement is a red flag to avoid. A contractor’s agreement should be read and understood fully before signing. These agreements may outline warranty, schedule, responsibilities, change orders, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask the contractor questions about the agreement to gain confidence in your understanding of the project!

10. Go with Your Gut

You have read what to look for and asked questions so now it’s time to think logically about the decision. Avoid making your decision based solely on the lowest price as this can result in months of headaches and issues. Go with the contractor that shares the best ideas, communicates well, takes pride in their work, and is enjoyable to be around. Trusting your instincts will always give you the best outcome. Good luck on your next project!

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